Amritsar, December 4 (NIA): Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that his country rejects the US$ 500 million aid given by Pakistan for “development” and says it should be spent on curbing cross-border terrorism which, according to him, is being fomented by Pakistan.
Speaking at the Sixth Heart of Asia ministerial conference here on Sunday, Ghani said: “We need to identify cross-border terrorism and a fund to combat terrorism. Pakistan has pledged $500m for Afghanistan’s development. This amount can be spent to contain extremism,” Ghani said, directly addressing Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz who was in attendance at the two-day moot.
“Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year. This is unacceptable… Some still provide sanctuary for terrorists. As a Taliban figure said recently, if they had no sanctuary in Pakistan, they wouldn’t last a month,” the Afghan President thundered.
“I don’t want a blame game, I want clarifications on what is being done to prevent the export of terror,” Ghani said.
The theme of the conference is ‘enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Heart of Asia region’, and speculation was rife that India and Afghanistan would seek to pin Pakistan on terrorism.
Ghani emphasised the need to “confront the fifth spectrum in the room, which is terrorism” and called on Pakistan to “verify cross-border activities”.
The Afghan president appreciated India’s support to Afghanistan, which he said comes “with no strings attached”.
“The relationship is based on shared values and beliefs,” Ghani said.
Must counter terrorists: Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his opening remarks termed terrorism “the biggest threat to Afghanistan’s peace and the region.”
The Indian Premier did not refer explicitly to Pakistan in his speech but vowed to step up a drive to isolate Pakistan diplomatically following the Uri army base attack in September, which it blames on Pakistan ─ an allegation Islamabad denies.
Hours after the Uri attack occurred, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’ and accused Pakistan of involvement.
Addressing the moot, Modi said, “We must counter terrorists and their masters. We must demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terror network that cause bloodshed and spread fear.”
“Silence and inaction on terror in Afghanistan and the region will only embolden terrorists and masters and those fund them,” he said.
Modi said India is committed to ‘durable peace’ in Afghanistan, and announced plans to connect India and Afghanistan via an air link, as well as discussed the possibility of trilateral cooperation over Iran’s Chahbahar port.
“India-Afghanistan-Iran cooperation on the Chahbahar port will help Afghanistan to connect its economy to the rest of the world,” Modi said.
Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Pakistan Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs slammed Ghani’s “baseless accusations” against Pakistan and called for evolving a joint and purposeful strategy for lasting peace in Afghanistan.
“It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view,” he said.
“Peaceful resolution to all the longstanding issues is the only way forward for regional cooperation and connectivity,”
“Pakistan is ready to extend every kind of cooperation for lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that Afghanistan should avoid levelling false and baseless accusations at Pakistan.
Aziz underlined the need to address through effective and collective efforts the continuing wave of terrorism and violence in Afghanistan which had claimed scores of human lives and observed that the signing of a peace agreement between the Afghan government and Hizb-i-Islami may serve as a model for talks with other groups in the future.
Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban had not produced positive results, adding that Pakistan was making a serious effort to facilitate peace talks through the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), Aziz said.
He urged all QCG members to continue their efforts for talks between the Afghan government and Taliban.
“In our view, there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and all our efforts should be to achieve a politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” he said.
Aziz and Modi Shake Hands
The two-day moot kicked off amidst a media frenzy as a handshake between Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sparked speculation regarding the possibility of a Pak-India meeting on the sidelines of the event.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesman Vikas Swarup has, however, rubbished the rumors citing “a climate of continued terrorism” as the reason bilateral talks may not take place. “India will never accept continued terrorism as the new normal of the bilateral relationship,”
Prior to the meet, Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held bilateral talks focusing on a range of issues, including trade, investment, infrastructural development and increasing defense and security ties.
Sartaj Aziz also met Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Ashraf Ghani separately on the sidelines of the ministerial conference.